Independence ‘to let Labour voters reclaim party’

Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. Picture: Greg Macvean
Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. Picture: Greg Macvean
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AN independent Scotland would allow Labour supporters to “reclaim their politics and their party”, Scotland’s Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said.

Sturgeon called on Labour voters to back independence, saying this was the “only real opportunity” of building a more equal Scotland.

She spoke out days after former Labour defence minister Peter Kilfoyle backed a Yes vote in September’s independence referendum, stating at the moment there was a “huge imbalance” in the UK between the “favoured” areas of London and the South East and the rest of the country.

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Meanwhile the latest poll by TNS showed that 28 per cent of those who backed Labour in the 2011 Holyrood election are planning to vote for independence, when those who are not sure how they will cast their ballot are excluded.

Labour claimed the pro-independence campaign was becoming “increasingly desperate” because “so many previous SNP aren’t buying the separation which Nicola Sturgeon believes in above all else”.

But Ms Sturgeon said: “A Yes vote is the chance of a lifetime for Labour voters to reclaim their politics and their party - and put Scotland on a path towards the goals and ambitions they support.

“Instead of seeing up to 100,000 more children pushed into poverty because of Westminster austerity, we can get rid of Trident nuclear weapons and transform childcare to benefit 240,000 children.

“I have canvassed many Labour voters in many elections, and failed to persuade many of them to vote SNP. But I have yet to meet a Labour voter yet who puts bombs before bairns, which is one reason why I have spoken to so many in this referendum campaign who are voting Yes.”

She argued: “For Labour voters seeking a fairer and more equal country, a Yes vote offers the only real opportunity of making that a reality.

“It may be an irony, but it is precisely because Labour voters in Scotland have not traditionally been motivated by constitutional politics that increasing numbers are making up their mind to vote Yes.

“Defending a Westminster establishment that works for the few - and shows a contempt for the needs of the many - is the constitutional politics of the No campaign.

“’Westminster knows best’ is the very essence of the No camp’s message - but it is demonstrably untrue, and it has a rapidly diminishing appeal among Labour voters in Scotland who want a political system capable of delivering progressive change, not propping up vested interests.

“That’s why the polls show more Labour supporters moving to Yes. People are seeing the excitement and possibility of independence to ensure that the huge wealth of Scotland works for everyone.

“We are a nation of five million, and we cannot afford to leave anyone behind. An independent Scotland will want - and need - the talents and energy of all the people, which is the guarantee of a fairer sharing of wealth.”

Meanwhile former Labour MP and Yes Scotland chairman Dennis Canavan said: “Voting Yes in the referendum is not a vote for any political party. Scotland’s future is a matter which should transcend party politics and Yes Scotland embraces people of different political backgrounds.

“Some leading Labour figures, including former Government ministers, have recently announced their support for a Yes vote and, more importantly, an increasing number of grassroots Labour supporters are shifting to Yes.

“The reason for that is clear - Westminster politicians have lost the plot with all the unionist parties hell-bent on dismantling the welfare state, privatising the National Health Service and spending billions of pounds on weapons of mass destruction.”

Scottish Labour’s constitutional spokesman Drew Smith hit back and said: “Nicola Sturgeon has spent her life campaigning against the Labour Party.

“But her campaign is becoming increasingly desperate, no doubt because so many previous SNP aren’t buying the separation which Nicola Sturgeon believes in above all else.

“The SNP will say anything to get over the line in September, but I believe Scotland will see through the empty promises and unfunded polices which the Yes campaign is trying to sell.”